We Are Rural: Small Business

Fernando Lopez was a perfect fit for our Entrepreneur of the Year award last year. He illustrates the pride and success your support creates for small businesses and rural communities. Dreams of business ownership drive people to risk, to build, to persevere, and to achieve. They (and you!) are the foundation of the rural economy.

Entrepreneurs tell us they need four essential services to succeed: business training, counseling and one-on-one technical assistance, a chance to network with others, and access to capital. We deliver these services through our Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP).

Last year, our REAP Women’s Business Center trained and counseled over 1,300 entrepreneurs. We partnered with local organizations across the state to bring diverse opportunities to rural Nebraskans.

Our REAP Hispanic Business Center reached over 800 Hispanic entrepreneurs through trainings and counseling. Staff lent their rural perspective to numerous events ranging from the Heartland Latino Conference to the National Association for Enterprise Opportunity conference.

REAP lending made a big impact for startup and existing entrepreneurs throughout Nebraska. We extended over $1 million in loans for the year while leveraging close to $1.8 million. REAP helped to create or retain 518 jobs.

Rural entrepreneurs face the same challenges as businesses located in underserved urban areas. A new initiative, the Nebraska Small Business Collaborative formed last year. This dynamic collaboration of programs provides services to the smallest businesses in all distressed areas of Nebraska.

Annual Report Small Business Highlights of 2013:

  • Named a Community Development Financial Institution
  • Placed 78 loans totaling $1,084,950
  • Leveraged an additional $1,777,685 from other sources due to REAP assistance
  • Created or retained over 500 jobs
  • Counseled and trained over 2,100 clients

You'll find the Center's full 2013 Annual Report here (pdf).

Feature photo: Fernando Lopez owns El Tapatio, a family restaurant in Columbus, Nebraska. In business since 2000, Fernando credits the Center’s Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) for helping him succeed.